History of Sex in Cinema:
|Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description|
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
This was the first studio film of successful independent 'nudie-cutie' king Russ Meyer who was the sexist, exploitative director of Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!! (1965) and Vixen! (1968). It was co-written by film critic Roger Ebert as an unofficial sequel to Fox's Valley of the Dolls (1967) - based upon Jacqueline Susann's trashy novel.
Rated X originally (but re-rated as NC-17 in 1990), this T & A exploitation spoof film was made for a $1 million budget, but grossing $40 million overall. The cult melodrama, with a twisted plot filled with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, was one of the most successful 20th Century Fox films ever made.
It told about an uninhibited group of hick girls in a rock trio, dubbed The Kelly Affair and renamed The Carrie Nations (Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, and Marcia McBroom - in her movie debut) who journeyed to Hollywood to make it big.
There, they found orgiastic sex, bondage, gays and gigolos, lesbianism, drugs, a bizarre record promoter and murder. Many scenes contained ridiculous yet sexy dialogue, such as porn star Ashley St. Ives's (Edy Williams) invitation: "You're a groovy boy. I'd like to strap you on sometime."
The Boys in the Band (1970)
This milestone film from director William Friedkin (an adaptation of Mart Crowley's off-Broadway 1968 stage play, with the original stage actors) was notable as being the first Hollywood feature film to examine the homosexual culture and community in close-up fashion, and to portray gays as human beings who could have a sense of camaraderie.
It was rated R by the usually ultra-conservative MPAA (when the previous year's Midnight Cowboy (1969) and The Killing of Sister George (1969) received X-ratings) for its subject matter and for its bold language. However, symbolic of its times, it also included some gay stereotypes and images, and negativity.
Set in the late 1960s, it told about a gay birthday party (held for Harold) in an Upper East Side apartment among some miserable and bitchy individuals that turned confessional and vindictive as the night wore on. It especially became uncomfortable after the arrival of host Michael's married straight (heterosexual) friend/college roommate, lawyer Alan McCarthy (Peter White). The six homosexuals at the party included:
Conversations were often coarse and abrasive. While preparing for the party as Donald was showering, Michael sang:
During the early stages of the party, Michael told Donald: "Donald, you are a real card carrying cunt." Emory bluntly asked: "So, who do you have to f--k to get a drink around here?" Cowboy Tex (Robert La Tourneaux) arrived at the door - a male hustler hired by Emory as a birthday "gift" for Harold. When Harold came late and was reprimanded by Michael, he replied:
They also played a game in which they each telephoned their most loved one - revealing many past anxieties and issues. Michael accused Alan of being a "closeted" homosexual who had at one time spurned homosexual advances from male college friend Justin Stewart. The film ended with a devastating attack on Michael by Harold, who characterized him as an unhappy homosexual - forever. In the climactic searing scene with self-deprecating humor before he left, Harold attacked Michael:
Michael fell apart and collapsed in Donald's arms.
Dancing to "Heat Wave"
Direction Mike Nichols' anti-war comedy, an adaptation of Joseph Heller's anti-establishment 1961 first novel, was an autobiographical novel about a bomber squadron and its pilots in WW-II Italy on a Mediterranean island:
The film was daring in many aspects, none the least for its on-screen nudity (a major thing in the early 70s).
Cherry, Harry & Raquel! (1970)
This Russ Meyer classic exploitation film was his last independent movie before 20th Century Fox lured him to Hollywood, to make his next film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970). The trailer described its exciting premise, with "hot cars, blazing guns and beautiful women."
It was another bosomania action tale of sex-crazed individuals in an Arizona-Mexico border town, featuring a corrupt sheriff (Charles Napier as Harry), drug-dealing and pot smuggling, shoot-outs, beatings and car-crashes. Harry's crime partner was the powerful but bed-ridden Mr. Franklin (Franklin H. Bolger). It was also noted, typical for a Meyer fantasy erotic film, for its love triangle between Harry, Cherry, and Raquel, including lesbianism.
The female characters were:
Statuesque and well-endowed Uschi Digard (aka Astrid Lillimoor) also starred as the German-speaking Native American ghost Soul, who posed nude against various desert locations, sometimes with an Apache feather headdress.
The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970)
Veteran Hollywood director Irving Rapper's campy biopic released by United Artists, was adapted for the screen from a best-selling, late 60s autobiographical account.
It was Hollywood's first attempt at exploring transgender issues - yet the dated and fictionalized film (although respectful) contained howlingly bad acting, dialogue, and writing. The poster proclaimed - "I couldn't live in a man's body!" and "Did the surgeon's knife make me a woman or a freak?"
The overwrought and melodramatic film told about an effeminate, introverted young boy who enjoyed dolls and "sissy" things, George Jorgensen Jr. (John Hansen). After growing up and serving as a GI, he worked as an ad agency's professional photographer, where he was nearly raped by his predatory gay boss Jess Warner (Rod McCary). After researching gender issues and sex disorders in a New York library, and speaking to sex researcher Professor Estabrook (Will Kuluva), George realized that he had a hormonal imbalance. He arranged for a radical, new surgical procedure with Dr. Victor Dahlman (Oscar Beregi) in a Denmark clinic (his homeland) in the early 1950s.
George became blonde beauty Christine Jorgensen, one of the earliest surgically-altered transsexuals ("The First Man to Become a Woman" the film falsely implied) with sex reassignment surgery.
In one post-surgical shot, there was a view of Christine's hormonely-enhanced, developing breasts. A reporter named Tom Crawford that became Christine's love interest was invented for the movie.
El Topo (1970, Mex.)
Director/star Alejandro Jodorowsky's self-conscious, surrealistic, often incoherent and incomprehensible, unique and avant-garde El Topo (translated "the Mole"), a gory (and spiritual) "spaghetti" western and first 'midnight movie' cult film, told the story of the existential quest of a black-clad, violent gunfighting title character (the director himself).
The film opened with El Topo riding in the Mexican desert with his naked son (Brontis Jodorowsky) on the saddle in front of him. He had his son bury artifacts - his mother's picture and his favorite childhood stuffed animal, in order to become a man and take his father's place.
In the startling opening sequence, they found the bloody remains of a town massacre where animals were gutted and people were decimated, leaving a river of blood. When threatened by three crazed evil-doer bandits, El Topo quickly dispatched with them, and then sought further vengeance in a mission town against the fat, balding (with a toupee), pasty-faced but vicious and sadistic Colonel (David Silva) and his outlaw gang. After castrating the Colonel (who then committed suicide) and executing his men, El Topo rescued the man's terrorized concubine-slave Mara (Mara Lorenzio) and rode off with her, while leaving his naked son in the care of monks.
The freed Mara (meaning "bitter water") accompanied him on his journey into the desert. Their trip included a notable rape scene between El Topo and Mara in which he tore off her clothes and forced himself upon her. He sexually imparted to her the ability to find eggs in the sand and bring water from a rock. In a symbolic scene, she touched a phallic-shaped rock that ejaculated forth life-giving water - and then hugged it.
She convinced him that for her to best love him, he had to prove himself by journeying onward to defeat and kill the "four great gun masters" who lived in the desert. After killing the first master (a holy man) through a bit of cheating, El Topo and Mara were joined by another 'Woman in Black' (Paula Romo), a whip-cracking bi-sexual gunslinger (speaking in a man's voice) at an oasis, possibly signifying El Topo's feminine side.
The two women bathed naked together, and El Topo made love to Mara while buried in the sand, and afterwards shot the mirror that she was often viewing herself in. [The self-important director later dubiously claimed - for publicity's sake - that the sex scenes were deliberately real.]
In the other three duels with masters, El Topo defeated each of them with more mystical trickery - and luck. After killing the third master (a rabbit man), he rubbed blood onto Mara's breasts to signify his victory. But with the demise of all four adversaries and after acquiring their wisdom, he believed he was contaminated: "I am laid low in the dust of death. My God, why hast thou forsaken me. Why are You so far from saving me, from heeding my groans?" He was betrayed by the 'Woman in Black' when she wounded him - shooting him four times through both his hands and feet (a crucifixion-passion-stigmata symbol). Mara also chose to shoot El Topo in the side to finish him off, and he was left for dead, while the two women became lovers and rode off together.
In this second part of the film, El Topo's comatose body was found by a group of small-statured deformed cripples, and taken into their subterranean home inside a mountain, where they slept in stacked barrels and were led by an old woman. After he awoke from a long sleep, he realized they were a strange and "repulsive" outcast colony of mis-shapen underground people (due to "continuous incest"), who were worshipping him as a god and savior, believing he would free them from their imprisoned state. He took one of the "small" women (Jacqueline Luis) as his lover, and as an act of atonement, promised to free the exiled cave-dwellers by helping them dig an escape tunnel out of the cave. Depraved and weird religious cultists from the neighboring western town were led by outlaws and sex-starved and degenerate matriarchal women. The female leaders were hypocritical members of the Decent Women League who demanded sex from slaves and then had them executed for rape. They brutalized and enslaved white-clad townsfolk. They branded them like cattle with a symbol - an eye within a triangle.
El Topo appeared to have found enlightenment and holy "sainthood" and was born again - he shaved his head and dressed in peasant or Buddhist monk garb, and became a pacifist servant-beggar. He provided street entertainment and performed menial tasks to earn money from the villagers. He discovered that his son was now grown-up (Robert John) and had become a religious figure in the village, but was disillusioned by the cultists and began to dress in his father's black-clad gunfighter outfit.
In the frontier town, worshippers played Russian roulette with a gun as a means to produce "miracles" until a young boy was killed. When the underground people exited the tunnel into sunlight and entered the town, they were slaughtered by the cultists. Invincible to their gunblasts, El Topo approached the killers to retaliate, grabbed a rifle, and in a flurry of gunfire shot all of the clan members, and then immolated himself in the dusty street. Survivors of the bloodbath massacre included El Topo's grown son and his dwarf girlfriend (and a child born to her at the same time as El Topo's death). They constructed a swarming beehive grave for El Topo's remains. The film ended as El Topo's son, the child, and the dwarf female rode off on the horse into the desert, mirroring the scenes in the film's opening.
In other sex-related scenes, a fringe-jacketed bandit laid on top of a rock sculpture of a naked woman that he had just drawn, the 'Woman in Black' suggestively stroked and then licked a piece of sliced-open green cactus fruit before grabbing Mara for an unwanted lesbian kiss, and after seriously wounding El Topo the two traitorous women again kissed and made love. In the film's most bizarre and decadent scene, El Topo and his dwarf lover were taken to the village's saloon where in a trap-doored underground sex cantina, they were forced to strip and re-enact their wedding night in front of a group of voyeuristic degenerates.
Electro Sex '75 (1970)
Mike Henderson's hard-core, hour-long adult feature was the first pornographic film to be advertised in New York's newspapers. Male porn star Tommy Toole took the role of Jim.
It was basically an all-out orgy film featuring three female sex robots:
The crude, black and white film ended with the male member of one of the men being bitten off. Three sex-exhausted men ended up dead.
He and She (1970)
Director Matt Cimber's adult film was another of this time period's sex documentaries, featuring a fake "sex research institute."
It was noted as the first hard-core porn film to get national distribution.
In the film, an attractive young married couple on a circular bed demonstrated the art of lovemaking, mostly foreplay (with sensitive kissing and touching, mutual masturbation, oral sex, and 69), and finally engaged in actual intercourse, while a sex education professional narrated.
Their final orgasmic moments were accompanied by traditional bursts of fireworks.
A History of the Blue Movie (1970)
Director Alex de Renzy's follow-up film to Pornography in Denmark (1970) (see below) was the quasi-historical two hour and twenty minute A History of the Blue Movie (1970). The porn film was designed to include copious amounts of sex and nudity while circumventing obscenity laws.
It was an evolutionary survey of pornography with rare vintage erotica from the silent era ("blue movies" or stag films), to peep shows (and burlesque), and then the modern day sex industry (with self-serving footage of de Renzy's own blue films). The historical overview included scenes from films dating from 1915 to 1970:
The film concluded with a Berkeley, California hippie couple artistically filmed making love during auditioning.
A Free Ride (1915)
Ever Ready (1928/29)
This macabre, black-humored, anti-war comedy by director Robert Altman (originally rated X, but reduced to an R rating) was one of the first films to use the F-word (in the football game scene, in which "Painless" (John Schuck) said: "All right, Bub, your f--kin' head is coming right off"), and among the first to feature brief full nudity.
A prank was planned by the members of a free-wheeling camp on uptight chief nurse Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Sally Kellerman). It was part of a $20 bet to discover whether she was a natural blonde or not ("I'll bet she's not a real blonde"). They pulled away the front tent flap of her shower stall and exposed her to an audience of jeering spectators ("What a performance!"). She hurried to bitterly complain to the commanding Col. Blake: "This isn't a hospital. It's an insane asylum. And it's your fault because you don't do anything to discourage them."
Earlier, they had broadcast her love-making tryst on loudspeakers with hypocritical tee-totaler Major 'Frank' Burns (Robert Duvall), when she deservedly earned the nickname "Hot Lips":
As he hungrily was atop her and undressing and they began making love (in the dark), she cried out:
"Hot Lips" Houlihan
Mona: The Virgin Nymph (1970)
Porn pioneer Bill Osco's film was remarkable as the first, theatrically-released, feature-length 100% hardcore narrative film with an actual storyline -- actually a threadbare plot (accompanied by explicit sex scenes) that created the pattern for future porn films of the 70s. This film's storyline was borrowed, to some degree, by Gerard Damiano's Deep Throat (1972).
The 'porno chic' movie was screened without credits (to avoid legal problems). It was shot in three days on a budget of about $5,000. Remarkably, it played in major US cities (San Francisco and New York) and was not banned or shut down.
The prurient film told about the title character - Mona (Fifi Watson), an engaged girl who had been initiated into oral sex by her father (his strange intention was to preserve her virginity for her future husband). Mona promised her nefarious widowed mother (Judy Angel) that she wouldn't have intercourse with fiancee Tim (Orrin North). She vowed that she would be a virgin on her wedding day - meaning no explicit penile-vaginal penetration (except that everything else, including oral sex, was permissible). She joyfully performed fellatio on Tim in the outdoors, with a stranger in an alley, cunnilingus on a blonde prostitute (Stewart), and then touched herself in a movie theatre before providing more oral sex to a male in an aisle seat.
At the same time, Mona's self-pleasuring, garter-belted mother was having passionate sex with her future son-in-law. The film ended with mother and daughter confessing to their full-on sexual indiscretions. When Tim found out about Mona's other partners, he tied Mona down on a bed, and all of her previous partners engaged in a major oral sex-party.
Myra Breckinridge (1970)
20th Century Fox's film was one of the biggest bombs ever made. Originally rated X, it was the cinematic adaptation of Gore Vidal's 1968 notorious story about a man-hating trans-sexual Myron (Rex Reed), then re-named Myra Breckinridge (Raquel Welch) in Hollywood.
It included the infamous scene of a sham physical exam (and dildo rape!) conducted by star-spangled pattern-wearing Myra on hapless de-pantsed patient and young Hollywood acting student Rusty Godowsky (Roger Herren) - she told her subject as she put on a large strap-on dildo:
The outrageous scene was complete with intercut shots of various stars (Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe - in her famous pin-up pose, Clark Gable, etc.), bucking broncho-riding, the assault of a fortress with a large wooden battering ram, clips from a Laurel and Hardy film, a shot of the Hoover Dam collapsing, an image of Myra on a flowery swing spouting: "Hooray for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Uncle Sam, here I come," the cresting over the top of a roller-coaster, the tune "Love is a Many Splendored Thing", and an H-bomb explosion.
The story also featured an aging 77 year-old Mae West (caricaturing herself) as sex-craving talent agent Letitia Van Allen with many one-liners: (i.e., "Well, the end of another busy day. I can't wait till I get back to bed. If that don't work, I'll try to sleep").
Other preposterous scenes included:
Myra (Raquel Welch)
Myra with Mary Ann
Myra with Myron
Party at Kitty and Stud's (1970) (aka Italian Stallion)
To break into the film-making world, many well-known actors and actresses first starred in marginal films, such as this one, originally an 8 mm porn-stag flick.
23 year-old Sylvester Stallone was featured in this low-grade, crude film (originally rated X, but drastically edited for its retitled re-release on 35 mm) in his first acting role as Stud, for which he was paid $100/day for two days' work.
Then, this little-known film came to light and was renamed and re-released (heavily-edited without the hard-core penetrative sequences) with a more provocative title in reference to his nicknamed role in the boxing film, The Italian Stallion.
This adult film displayed two bathing scenes (shower and bath) between Study and Kitty (Henrietta Holm), bestiality, fellatio, lesbianism, semi-light S&M (belt-whipping), and a prolonged orgy scene on the psychedelic-carpeted floor of the couple's Manhattan apartment.
Girl in Park
Performance (1970, UK)
Co-director Nicolas Roeg's film (his directorial debut film) was criticized as sleazy and worthless for its homoerotic violence, explicit sex and nudity when released.
It was a wild and drug-filled psychedelic, originally X-rated cult film kept out of circulation for two years after production until edited down, and initially loathed by critics.
The non-linear film starred Stones' singer Mick Jagger as Turner - a reclusive, androgynous ("a man, male and female man") washed-up hippie ex-pop-star in a decaying London (Notting Hill) mansion with his two groupie lovemates:
One of the film's most publicized scenes was the shared menage-a-trois bath scene among them.
In the film's most erotic scene, Pherber lay down on a bed while talking to London hit-man (or 'performer') gangster Chas (James Fox) and stroked/fondled her fur coat covering her otherwise naked crotch.
In another scene of shifting sexual identities, Turner and Pherber dressed macho Chas up in effeminate clothing (and an androgynous curly blonde wig) to give him a "female feel." Pherber then mirror-reflected one of her breasts onto Chas' chest. He retorted back: "I feel like a man, a man all the time." She replied: "That's awful. That's what's wrong with you, isn't it?" He claimed that he was "normal" and that nothing was wrong with him. She laughed, and then reflected his face onto hers, but he thought she was only "weird" and "kinky."
Pherber with Chas
Pornography in Denmark: A New Approach (1970 or 1969) (aka Censorship in Denmark, or Sexual Freedom in Denmark, or Dansk Sexualitet (1969))
This full-length, exploitation X-rated feature film from Alex de Renzy was the first successful mainstream film widely distributed with pornography in it and shown in a commercial theatre -- it was vaguely disguised or masqueraded as a serious or educational 'documentary' look (with redeeming social importance and value) at how Denmark became the first country to legalize hard-core pornography in 1969.
San Francisco's hardcore pioneer director/producer Alex de Renzy (with his directorial debut) (with reputed sexologists Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen) conducted interviews with uninhibited Danes, along with closeups of every detail of conventional sexual intercourse and depictions of lesbianism, fellatio, and cunnilingus. A 90-minute version screened in San Francisco was later confiscated and the film was banned in a number of states.
Sweden's subtitled X-rated pornographic film Kärlekens språk (1969) (aka Swedish Marriage Manual or Language of Love) another educational 'sex documentary' -- was the film that Robert De Niro inappropriately chose for his date Cybill Shepherd in Taxi Driver (1976).
(aka Swedish Marriage Manual (1969))
Song of the Loon (1970)
The first gay-friendly independent film with homoerotic content was this gay frontier romance (about free love among the Loon tribe) with some nudity. It was based upon Richard Amory's (pseudonym Richard Love) fictional and erotic Loon Trilogy, Soon of the Loon (1966), followed by Song of Aaron (1967), and Listen, the Loon Sings (1968).
The coming-of-age story about tormented gay love was set in 1870's California.
It was released with the tagline: "Curious? Have you ever wondered about a love story between two men?"
It provided audiences with one of its first serious representations of homosexuality, although the film was campy and amateurish. One scene was fairly well-acted, an earnest fireside talk between Ephraim MacIver (Morgan Royce) and Cyrus Wheelwright (John Iverson) followed by a tender kiss.
Woodstock (1970) (subtitled 3 Days of Peace & Music)
Michael Wadleigh's over 3-hour documentary of the 1969 concert in upper-state NY was originally rated R for brief images of nudity (mostly skinny-dipping, various instances of toplessness or nudity, and love-making in the bushes) - and also for rampant drug use and profanity among young concert-goers.
One female who was interviewed noted as others were swimming naked:
The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Zabriskie Point (1970)
This was Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's first US film, a controversial anti-Establishment work and embarrassing financial disaster for MGM - a simplistic view of a failing America.
The film's two disconnected young people were portrayed by newcomers
Toward its conclusion, there was a celebrated hallucinatory, dust-swirling fantasy lovemaking orgy sequence in the desert sand dunes (at the lowest point in the United States - Zabriskie Point).
The couple parked at an overlook and then ran down into a dry river-bed area, where they began making love -- during which other couples (and trios) magically appeared creating a massive 'love-in.'
Afterwards, Mark remarked: "I always knew it'd be like this." She asked: "Us?" but he replied: "The desert."
Mark (Mark Frechette)
and Daria (Daria Halprin)
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
1940-44 | 1945-49 | 1950-54 | 1955-56 | 1957-59 | 1960-61 | 1962-63 | 1964 | 1965-66 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989
1990 | 1991 | 1992-1 | 1992-2 | 1993 | 1994-1 | 1994-2 | 1995-1 | 1995-2 | 1996-1 | 1996-2 | 1997-1 | 1997-2 | 1998-1 | 1998-2 | 1999-1 | 1999-2
2000-1 | 2000-2 | 2001-1 | 2001-2 | 2002-1 | 2002-2 | 2003-1 | 2003-2 | 2004-1 | 2004-2 | 2005-1 | 2005-2 | 2006-1 | 2006-2
2007-1 | 2007-2 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013
Index to All Decades, Years and Features
- History of Sex in CinemaA year-by-year look at the films, scandals and changing laws.
- History of Erotic FilmsEverything you ever wanted to know from the first sex symbol to the birth of porn.
- Movies That Challenged RatingsA ranked movie list of 10 milestone sexy films that challenged the ratings.
- Sexy Hollywood BombshellsA brief history of Hollywood's sirens including Monroe, Mansfield, and Mamie.
- Top 100 Controversial MoviesMany of these included controversial sex and violence.
- Sexiest Films of All-TimeOver 75 of the hottest films in movie history.